By Julie Perrine, CPS/CAP, MBTI Certified
Here is part 3 of a 3-part series sharing what executives need and expect from their assistants and the strategies admins can implement to meet those expectations.
In parts 1 and 2 of this series, I outlined several key things you can do to become the admin your executive can’t imagine their executive life without. But as you begin to cultivate and develop a stronger working relationship with your executive, it’s very important for you to be super clear about your own personality type (including related communication preferences) and strengths as well as your executive’s. It’s also important for you to develop a strong understanding of business operations and how companies run.
Let’s start with personality type and strengths. It’s vitally important for you to know exactly who you are (your personality type), what your strengths are, and where your passions lie if you want to be an indispensable admin for those you support. Here’s why. When you are fully aware of who you are, what makes you tick, how you prefer to communicate and be communicated to, what energizes you, what your areas of strength are, what fires you up like nothing else about getting out of bed and going to work in the morning, then you can share that with your executives and teams in meaningful ways so you get to do what you love the most as you support them. When you love what you do, you give your best every day. In turn, they can support you in doing and being the best you can possibly be each day also. I can tell you as an executive now working with my own team that I want each team member to be working in their areas of strength the majority of the ti me because that’s how I get the best performance out of each of them EVERY day.
This does mean that you need to learn how to share this information with your executive once you have it or learn it. That’s why I love assessment tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI), the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment, the Passion Test, and many more like these. These tools provide a printed report you can share with your executive to give them insights into working more effectively with you. It frames things in positive language that even makes the things you aren’t the best at still sound reasonable.
Here’s a personal example from my StrengthsFinder 2.0 Assessment. One of my strengths is the discipline strength. Here’s a clip from my results:
Because of your strengths, you have a special knack for streamlining repetitious activities. You aim to handle every detail, requirement, or deadline efficiently and without any hassles. Prior to starting a task, you usually define the rules or procedures that those involved are expected to follow. By nature, you like creating familiar patterns of behavior. This is especially true when you must deal with recurring tasks. The more you use these processes, the more efficient you become. Seeking precision and exactness, you are inclined to review results numerous times to be sure everything is in its correct place. This is how you eliminate confusion so others know they are being dealt with in a just and equitable manner. Your fascination with details allows you to sequence the steps of processes, procedures, or regulations. When everything is orderly and predictable, you and others feel more secure. You are likely to grow impatient with individuals who d o things their own way. Failing to understand how their actions affect people, they tend to create unnecessary work for you, themselves, and their colleagues. This irks — that is, annoys — you.
I couldn’t say it better myself. In fact, I have never heard it stated more clearly and succinctly and in terms that still portray me in a positive light – even if I do get “irked” by people who create unnecessary work for others.
Here are a few assessment tools to get you started:
- Free online version of the Kiersey Temperament Sorter.
- Free online modified version of the Myers-Briggs assessment, or for an in depth Myers-Briggs assessment with Julie Perrine, a certified facilitator, click here.
- StrengthsFinder 2,0 assessment available when you purchase a copy of the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book.
- The Passion Test book. For a certified facilitator of The Passion Test, I highly recommend Dr. Lisa Van Allen.
- StandOut Assessment recently released by Marcus Buckingham.
- Free Fascinate assessment.
As you share your own personality type, strengths, interests, and passions for life with your executive, be willing to ask or learn about theirs as well. Being an effective administrative professional is a two way street, and you need to be as engaged in learning your executive’s preferences if you expect them to be engaged in learning yours. It will help you support them in more meaningful and effective ways. How do you get this same information from your executive? Ask them if they’ve taken any of these assessments and they would be willing to share their results with you. If not, buy them a copy of the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book and start with that. Send them the link to the Temperament finder link or the Fascinate assessment. Suggest a team building workshop for your entire team using a tool like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Have a discussion about it and learn as much as you can from them directly. When you hit a communication snag with your executive, don’t fret about it; use it as a teachable moment to dig deeper and learn more about their preferences and perhaps share more about your own. The more you read about and study these assessment tools yourself, the more you’ll be able to identify the various preferences and traits of your executive and team members. As I like to say, extreme self-awareness leads to a much higher level of awareness of those you work and live with also.
Developing a relationship based on team work and mutual respect requires a true understanding of how to communicate with the other person. You have to know where they are coming from. If you support an executive who relies instinctively on their gut while you are one who bases your decisions on facts and details you’ve carefully gathered, it can create significant communication divides. But when you both know this about the other person, you’re able to give each other a little more latitude to question each other with respect and understanding. It helps you not take offense at what could be construed as offensive behavior. It determines how you receive, process, and comprehend the information and instructions you receive from your executive and how they in turn do the same with you. It’s priceless.
Once you’ve developed this deeper understanding of one other, it’s also vitally important for you to have a solid grasp of how business operations run throughout your organization and industry. When you understand how business runs, you will be more likely to fully understand and participate in what your executive is doing each and every day. You will be able to connect dots more proactively and add significant value to your executive and the entire team. You should be able to explain in general terms how your company’s product or service goes to market. You need to understand the role and function of each department in that process. At a high level, you should be able to explain your company’s target market and your ideal customer. Attend as much of the company provided training that you possibly can to further your education in these areas. Read internal and external industry publications to continue populating your mental database. Consider taking a “how to start your own business” class, a management class, a sales class, or a marketing class at your local community college. Ask if you can attend industry trade shows or conferences when appropriate. Participate in the dozens of free and low fee webinars on business topics of every type that are being delivered every week across the world wide web. Use social media to find them. Scan the publications that come across your desk for possible leads. Ask your executive what you can do to further your education and understanding of the business and work that you are engaged in and working on. Do whatever it takes to become an administrative expert in the business in which you are employed.
Finally, this should go without saying, but it’s critical. Professionally represent your executive and your company in ALL that you do. How you casually talk about your executive, the projects you’re working on, and the company matters. It’s a direct reflection on your executive because you are an ambassador acting on their behalf. So make sure your actions, behaviors, verbal communication, written correspondence, and personal appearance reflect this. Do a self-assessment and see how your personal brand may be impacting your career…how you look, how you dress, your behavior on the job, the language you use. Your personal brand matters.
Building trust and a great working relationship with your executive takes time. Allow for it. There are no shortcuts. Sometimes you just have to work through things. When things don’t go well or an interaction goes awry, learn from it. Figure out how you can do it differently the next time and try a new approach. But don’t give up. You have what it takes. You can do it. Commit to implementing the strategies I’ve shared in this series, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming an indispensable part of your executive’s corporate team!.
© 2011 Julie Perrine International, LLC
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Julie Perrine, CPS/CAP, is a personality strategist, personal brand analyst, and administrative mentor who teaches administrative professionals and entrepreneurs how to increase their professional opportunities and achieve more productive and meaningful relationships by utilizing innovative technology, ideas, and people. Learn more and request your FREE copy of our special report “Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com